If you haven’t read any of the LOVE IN A SMALL TOWN romances yet, now is the time to start! This box set is free on all vendors for a limited time. (See links below: Amazon may not have gone free yet, but will shortly.)
To celebrate, I’m sharing this little peek into what’s been going on in Burton recently via an email update from Cory Evans to her daughter-in-law Ali, who lives part-time in Burton and part-time in New York City.
I saw your text message this morning about feeling out of the loop, but you know, I don’t love to text long and complicated updates. So I figured I’d email you instead. Hope you don’t mind!
Everyone here is well. I was out to the farm for a meeting about the Christmas Bazaar–yes, I’m on the committee again this year, despite swearing I was retiring from that fuss and bother–and so I was able to see Meghan and Sam and the twins. Oh, my, those babies are getting so big–and smart! Of course, they’re beautiful, too. Daniella and Justin are talking up a storm now. I can’t wait to see them with Bridget and Colleen when you and Flynn and the kids come home for Christmas this year! It’ll be so much fun.
Oh, and Sam and Meghan are doing well, too. I think they’re still slightly sleep-deprived and a little shell-shocked after being parents for a year, but they’re getting into the swing of things. Meghan just keeps telling everyone how happy she is, and Sam is the sweetest daddy ever–apart from Flynn, of course.
I was over to the Road Block for lunch today. I ran into Rilla who was there with her cousin Jenna and Sydney Garth. They were planning a joint baby show for Jenna and Sydney–oh, did I tell you BOTH of them are pregnant? I swear, there’s something in the water down here. Those two have gotten to be such good friends, it really does my heart good to see it. Anyway, Rilla seemed to be a little extra glowy these days, too, so I pried it out of her that Piper, Noah and Miriam are going to have a little sister or brother some time next spring. She swears this is the last baby, but judging by the way Mason looks at that woman, I wouldn’t bet on it. But let me tell you, Ali, seeing him happy and contented again after everything that man went through is definitely an answered prayer.
Maureen and Smith spent last week in Boston visiting his parents and his brother. Every time they go, I worry that the big city will lure them up there permanently, but Reenie swears that they love the slower pace of life in a small town. Their veterinarian practice is growing, so I assume that would keep them here, too. I’ve been hinting to my daughter about wanting more grandchildren, but you know that girl just keeps evading me and saying that they’re having too good a time with each other to think about settling down with kids yet. Maybe you and Flynn can be an example to her that being parents doesn’t mean ending the fun–only expanding it.
I had a package from Elizabeth last week, with all kinds of delicious cookies she’s been trying out for her blog. She sent some to Kiki, too. We both agreed that she’s got some crazy talent in the kitchen! Anyway, Elizabeth and Trent are still loving life on the road. Trent left Crissy Darwin’s band, as you might have heard, and is spending some time in Nashville to record his first solo album. I reminded Elizabeth of the Christmas Bazaar, and guess what? She talked Trent into coming back to Burton to play for us at the Bazaar! We’re all so excited and can’t wait to see them.
With your dear family home, Elizabeth and Trent, too . . . we’ll have a real extended family Christmas, won’t we? I’m so tickled that you’ll be here for the Bazaar, too. And I’m very curious about the big news you teased about in your text . . . are you sure you want to wait to tell me in person?
Well, I should finish this up and head to bed. I have to be at the library bight and early–our new round of preschool classes begin tomorrow, and I like to have everything set up before the little ones arrive.
Much love to my grandbabies, to my son who never writes to his mother, and of course to you–my wonderful daughter by love!
Kisses and hugs,
Get LOVE IN A SMALL TOWN Box Set I FREE for a limited time!
An update from Ava and Liam . . .
Hey! Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve caught up with you. So much has been going on.
As you know, Liam and I finally tied the knot in the most perfectly imperfect and beautiful Christmas wedding. We followed that up with the most incredibly romantic and sexy honeymoon ever known to man–or woman. Sigh . . .
Since then, life has been pretty damn sweet. With Liam’s support and encouragement, I left my job at the ad agency and launched my own social media promotion company. I’m not going to lie, the work’s been hard–and long–but the results have been amazing. I have a full roster of satisfied clients and a waiting list of interested people, too. I’ve just hired my third employee to help me handle all the business . . . and because I’m going to want to take a little time off soon, too.
Liam finished his graduate studies and is a full-fledged professor at Birch. He’s the professor all the students are dying to have, and not just because he’s so much fun to stare at while he lectures. He also has the unique ability to make the subject matter more interesting than anyone dreamed it could be.
With life going so well, we were also able to buy our first house. It’s a little fixer-upper not far from campus and near my new office, but it’s been so much fun to work on together. We’ve become expert painters and tile-layers. Well, expert might be going a little too far . . .
Let’s see, what else is new?
My brother Vincent and Liam’s best friend Amanda surprised us a few months ago by throwing an impromptu wedding at my family’s restaurant down the shore. They had invited all of us to come down for dinner, claiming that we hadn’t gotten together as a family for a long time–which was true; we’ve all been super busy–and then once we were there around the table in the restaurant, they announced that right after we finished eating, Father Byers was coming over to perform the ceremony. We were all shocked, but honestly, it was the most perfect wedding for the two of them. Neither of them wanted a fuss, but they didn’t want to elope, either. (Probably because Vincent was afraid of my mom!) So we got to have a fun dinner and celebrate these two we love so much. It was a win-win!
Julia and Jesse are still going strong. In addition to their sweet little girl Mia, my goddaughter, they just had TWIN boys. Julia is going absolutely nuts chasing after all three of the kids, but I think she’s loving every minute. She and Jesse are just as much in love now as they ever were, and we hang out together quite a bit. I’m so lucky to have such wonderful friends!
Speaking of friends, Giff and Jeff are FINALLY engaged. Why did it take those two so long? I think Jeff was ready, but Giff wasn’t. He wanted to make sure he was firmly established in his business, which he totally is. Anyway, no quickie surprise nuptials for those two: they’re throwing a huge and very lavish bash in Philadelphia in February. And they’re also talking about adopting kids sooner than later, which is especially sweet because . . .
We’re having a baby!! Yes, folks, you heard it here first. We’ve put off starting a family for a while, but the time is finally right. I’m about six months along, and I’ve never been happier. Liam walks around half the time like he’s the first guy to knock up his woman . . . and the other half of the time, he’s worried to distraction about me, about the baby, about how we’re going to adjust to being a family after it being just the two of us for so long.
We’ve been setting up the nursery and picking baby names. We want to be surprised about the sex, but I have a feeling I’m carrying a boy. Liam doesn’t care, but I think he’s a little worried about having a son, considering the rocky relationship with his own father (who divorced his second wife about a year ago and has joint custody of their little girl). But I’m not worried. I know Liam is going to be the best father in the world.
Well, that’s all the news here. My mom’s been making noises about having a big family reunion, so I hope we can catch up there–maybe with our new addition.
Liam Bailey is my sexiest dream and my worst nightmare, all rolled into one delicious, forbidden package.
I’m the girl with an iron-clad plan. Everything in my world is about succeeding, excelling, and making my large Italian family proud of me. That means graduating college with honors, landing the perfect job, and not letting anything–or anyone–get in my way.
But Liam is the guy who makes me want to break all my rules.
He’s the embodiment of all my naughtiest fantasies, with his incredible body, his brooding eyes and his tempting smile.
Liam’s also the sweet-talking, complicated son of a well-known politician, the big man on campus, the athlete, the rich guy who’s never had to work for anything in his life.
When I don’t fall into his lap like the other women do, I fully expect him to walk away. After all, why would a girl like me matter to someone like him?
But it turns out that Liam doesn’t give up easily. He’s not going to let our friends’ opinions, his parents’ disapproval, or my own walls get in the way of what he wants . . . which, apparently, is my heart.
Well, after all, rules were made to be broken.
I Choose You
Wedding bells are ringing for us. I hope.
The path of true love has sometimes been bumpy for Ava and me. I mean, I was her best friend’s ex-boyfriend, the son of a disgraced politician, and a former campus playboy. Ava was the hard-working, single-minded scholarship student with no time for romance. We were the couple least likely to succeed.
But almost two years later, love for us is better than ever. I’m pursuing my dream of being a college professor, and my girl Ava’s the rising star at a local ad agency. But I still have one more goal: I want to marry the girl who changed my life.
Neither of us realizes that making it to the big day might be our greatest challenge yet. Between my parents’ acrimonious divorce and Ava’s family’s ideas of how to plan the perfect wedding, it’ll take the strength of our love—and a little help from our friends–to see us through to happily-ever-after.
A sneak peek of Under the Mistletoe, my story in JINGLE BALLS, releasing on Tuesday, September 29th!
Nurse practitioner Darcy Ryan and football hottie Jackson Carmichael spent one magical, sexy summer together seven years ago. Everything between them was perfect until he abruptly broke Darcy’s heart and left her bitter.
She hasn’t seen Jackson until today, when he showed up unexpectedly at the first meeting of the Jingle Balls Gala planning committee . . . shocking both of them.
I’m only vaguely aware of the discussions going on around me during the first half of the meeting. Oh, I nod and smile and say yes or no as I should. I’m taking notes, jotting down shit that I don’t think means anything. I’m fairly certain there won’t be a test, after all.
But all that’s happening with one part of my brain. Another part is busy cataloging everything about the man sitting across the table from me, noting his every move.
Eyes? Check. The same beautiful bright blue that would darken to nearly navy when he was aroused.
Lips? Check. The same sensual shape that used to draw cries of pleasure from me on the regular.
Jaw? Check. The same chiseled feature, only today it bears a fine, unmistakable and almost unbearably sexy scruff.
Chest? Check, and check, and check. It’s broader. More defined. Even through the golf shirt he wears, I can see his pecs, and fuck if I don’t want to use my tongue to trace them. I’m imagining doing just that when the chairperson clears her throat.
“Now, we need someone to head up the music committee.” Mrs. Lockhart’s manicured finger taps the table. “Let’s see. Who hasn’t . . . oh, Ms. Ryan.”
“Yes, what? I mean, yes. I can do it.” I pause, coughing a little. “I mean, sure, I’m happy to help with . . . ah, the—”
“The music,” Jackson finishes for me, and damn the man to hell, he has the audacity to wink at me as he says it! As if we’re in this together or some nonsense like that. “And you know, Mrs. Lockhart, I’ll join Darcy on that committee, if you don’t mind. It sounds like it would be a good match for my talents.”
Mrs. Lockhart glances at him with her brows drawn together, and then she nods, smiling. “Oh, yes, the famous rhythm of football players—you’re probably an excellent dancer, aren’t you? What with you being so . . .” She rolls one hand. “Physical. So . . .” She seems to have lost the knack for words.
I want to tell Jackson that no, he cannot be on the music committee. Or even better, I want to tell Mrs. Lockhart that I won’t be on the music committee. But before I can say anything, she’s announcing that we’ve made tremendous headway today, and isn’t that lucky . . . and the meeting is adjourned! She’ll see us in August!
Everyone stands up and begins gathering their papers and shit. I realize that I’m trapped. I need to get out of this room fast before Jackson can corner me. I hope that someone will talk to him, holding him up, and thank the Lord and the Blessed Virgin, the TV station guy does just that. I’m so relieved that I actually smile at Jackson—I hope he reads my triumph and a little bit of nanny-nanny-boo-boo in that expression—as I sweep out of the room.
Okay, I don’t so much sweep as I scamper as fast as my sandal-clad feet will carry me. But the point is, I get the hell out of Dodge, and fast. I’m waiting for the elevator, tapping my toe impatiently, when I hear his voice in the hall. Damn. He and television dude are slowing walking this way, and Jackson glances over the other man’s head, searching me out.
Come on, elevator, I silently beg. As if it is just awaiting my plea, the doors slide open. But of course, the car is filled with other people. And they’re slow getting out. Jackson’s getting closer. Dammit, dammit, shit and fuck. I’m mentally reciting swear words in my head as the last person steps from the elevator. Two others stand with me, and they both move to get in first. I follow close on their heels, and for a glorious moment, I think I’ve gotten away.
Then I hear the dreaded words. “Hold the elevator, please!”
The woman standing to my left hears Jackson, and to my dismay, she jabs the Door Open button.
“You know, they could just catch the next one,” I murmur, but she shoots me a glare that questions my upbringing and leans harder on that stupid button.
“Thanks.” Jackson and the other man nod to the button-pusher as they step in. I maneuver my way to the back corner. Maybe I can just stay on here and ride up and down until I’m sure Jackson has left the hotel.
No such luck. Jackson must be hip to my jive because he also moves to the back wall and turns to face me.
“Darcy, can I have a moment before you take off? We should probably talk about the music and decide the direction we want to take.”
I grit my teeth and nod.
When the elevator stops, everyone gets out. Jackson and I are the last two, and I guess he’s afraid I’m going to make a run for it because he curves his fingers around my upper arm. “Why don’t we just come over here?”
I let him guide me, mostly because if I don’t, it’ll make a scene. We end up in a small alcove, where Jackson turns my back to the wall and rests one arm over my head, looming over me.
“Darcy.” His eyes search my face. “God, I can’t believe it’s really you.”
“It is really me.” I cross my arms and stare at a point on his shoulder, which seems much safer than looking at his face or his chest. “What do you need?”
“What do I need? Well, for starters, I’d love to know why you’ve been avoiding me.”
I snort and roll my arms. “Avoiding you? Get over yourself, Jackson. I’m not avoiding you.”
“Is that why you’ve missed almost every Christmas dinner at Granny’s in the last seven years, and in fact, the only one you didn’t miss was the one when Seattle had the Christmas Day game, and I couldn’t be home?”
I lift one shoulder. “Coincidence, I guess. I’m a nurse practitioner, Jackson. We work all the holidays. People don’t stop getting sick just because it’s Christmas.”
“You’re ridiculous.” His voice is tight.
“Oh, I’m ridiculous?” My words might be a little louder and a little shriller than I planned. “God almighty, Jackson. I don’t even know where to begin with you. And I don’t have the time or energy to do it today. But maybe you should give some thought to why it’s not me who owes you an explanation. It’s exactly the opposite.”
He swallows. I can see his Adam’s apple bob up and down. When he speaks again, his voice is huskier. “Darcy, have lunch with me. C’mon . . . you’ve got to admit this is a crazy coincidence, the two of us being on this committee. Please. There’s a little restaurant looking right out over the beach. We can talk.”
I waver for a moment. He sounds so honest, so earnest, and yet . . . I can’t forget what he did to me. I can’t forget how he threw away my love, abandoned me and never even explained why.
So instead of answering, I duck under his arm and step away. “No, Jackson. I can’t. I’m tired—I just worked an overnight shift—and I need to go home.” I hesitate just a moment more and add, “I’ll be in touch about the music for the ball.”
“Will you?” he questions, his skepticism clear.
I glare up at him. “Yes, in fact, I will. Because I keep my promises.”
With that, I turn and leave.
Here are the promised photos–enjoy!